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Everyone’s a giver in the nonprofit sector—or are they?

What nonprofits can learn from Adam Grant’s Give and Take

Everyone’s a giver in the nonprofit sector—or are they?Earlier this year, GuideStar began hosting a staff book club. So far, we’ve reviewed, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and most recently, Give and Take by Adam M. Grant. The book’s premise is that there are three types of people – givers, takers, and matchers – with givers being the most successful of the bunch, even though it may seem that takers gain more in the long-term.

In Give and Take, givers are people that assist others without regard to the benefit that it will bring them, focusing instead on what is best for others. Throughout the book, Grant provides tips and tools for approaching interactions with others through a giving mindset, and shows how stepping up your personal giving benefits both you and your circle of influence.

So, how can we apply his principle of giving to our work as nonprofits?

  1. If someone asks your organization for a favor and it won’t take too much time, do it!
    People appreciate and spread the word about those most willing to aid others; ultimately, this builds a network of people excited to be part of your “pay it forward” attitude and offers to work together will multiply. A few small favors a week will give your nonprofit a reputation of being helpful and dedicated to our sector’s greater mission – making a better world. By taking those 10 extra minutes to help someone, together, you’ll be able to make an even greater impact.
  1. Tone down the talking, amp up the listening
    Grant posits that dominating conversations negatively impacts your ability to spread your message. Whether person-to-person or with larger organizational partners, we should always strive to listen more than we talk – allowing new voices and ideas to come to the surface supports a growth-oriented nonprofit sector and is paramount for true innovation!
  1. Consider the team needs, not the “me” needs.
    While working with others, looking at things from the team perspective will give you a great advantage. When you go into meetings and projects thinking “what can I get for me (or my organization)?” you forget the real goal – accomplishing the greater mission. Try to come to the table considering what is best for everyone and you’ll find results building up in your favor over time.

Grant’s tips are definitely not for quick gains, but will allow you and your organization to build a reputation as collaborative, dedicated, and accomplished which will lead to greater opportunities, interest, and success within your mission area and beyond!

What books does your nonprofit consider required reading? Share your thoughts on Give and Take or the benefits of an organizational book club in the comments below!

Everyone’s a giver in the nonprofit sector—or are they? Jessica Walker

Jessica Walker is development coordinator for GuideStar and a regular contributor to our Development Corner series. To learn more about GuideStar's Foundation Membership Program, click here.

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